AFC North: Daryl Smith

The Film Don't Lie: Ravens

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
4:01
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A weekly look at what the Baltimore Ravens must fix:

The Ravens have to do a better job chasing down Cleveland Browns running back Terrance West on Sunday than they did against Giovani Bernard and Le'Veon Bell in the first two games.

The biggest problem for the Ravens is their inside linebackers getting a step behind speedy running backs in open space. Daryl Smith, who was strong in coverage last season, looked slow matching up with Bernard and Bell in the passing game.

The Ravens allowed Bernard and Bell to total 116 yards after the catch. In the season opener, Bernard averaged 11.3 yards after the catch and produced a 32-yard reception. In Week 2, Bell averaged 9.6 yards after the catch and broke one reception for a 19-yard gain.

This is the biggest area of concern for a Ravens defense that has given up just one touchdown in its first two games.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Six of the Baltimore Ravens' last seven first-round picks started as rookies. Based on how the Ravens' coaches gushed about inside linebacker C.J. Mosley on Friday, it's safe to say this trend will continue.

The Ravens see Mosley on the field on running downs. They want him out there against the pass. And they envision him helping this defense get back to a top-10 one for the first time since 2011.

[+] EnlargeC.J. Mosley
Scott Donaldson/Icon SMIThe Ravens say that they believe linebacker C.J. Mosley will be a force against both the run and pass.
Mosley comes into a situation where many believed the starters were already set. The Ravens re-signed Daryl Smith to a four-year deal this offseason and they invested a second-round pick in Arthur Brown only 13 months ago.

"There will be competition," Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees said at Mosley's introductory news conference. "We're not going to hand it to him, and he knows that. Obviously, we think he can get on the field or you wouldn't draft him in the first round."

How will the Ravens' inside linebacker situation pan out? This year, Mosley will likely start alongside Smith and learn from the 32-year-old veteran. Then, whether it's during this season or next, the Ravens will make the change and go with the athletic tandem of Mosley and Brown.

The drafting of Mosley isn't a sign that the Ravens believe Brown is a bust. The Ravens see Mosley and Brown as their long-term duo inside, and the timetable of this happening all depends on Brown's development. With the way Smith's contract is structured, the Ravens are only married to him for two seasons.

Mosley is versatile enough that he can play weakside linebacker this year and take Smith's spot in the middle in 2015. Working in Mosley's favor to make an immediate impact is his high football intelligence and his familiarity with the Ravens' defense.

When Pees spoke with Mosley at his pro day a couple of months ago, he threw a couple of terms that the Ravens use on defense.

"He kind of smiled and laughed at them because they were the exact same terms that they use at Alabama," Pees said.

Pees' connection with Alabama coach Nick Saban dates back 24 years. He was Saban's defensive coordinator at Toledo in 1990 and ran Saban's defense at Michigan State from 1995 to 1997. Both Pees and Saban are known for running multiple defenses.

"Sometimes it's not a great fit when people come here and they've played in the same one front and one coverage all the time," Pees said. "This guy hasn't. He's had to control the front and make those calls and make those checks up front. That's one of the things that I really, really liked about the system that he came from."

It doesn't sound like the Ravens are going to easy Mosley into the defense as a part-time player. Last year, the Ravens would use Jameel McClain or Josh Bynes on running downs and sub in Brown on passing situations.

Pees scoffed at reports he read that described Mosley as a better defender against the run than the pass.

"I don't think we'd draft a guy who couldn't be on the field for three downs," he said. "This guy is a three-down linebacker, there's no question about it. I wouldn't take him off the field against any passing team."

This is the fifth straight year in which the Ravens' top pick has been a defensive player. The Ravens are hoping Mosley is the key piece to getting the defense back on track.

After nine straight years of ranking in the top 10, the Ravens' defense finished 17th in 2012 and 12th last season.

"We want to get back to the top on defense," Pees said, "and we think this is the guy right here who can lead us in that direction."

The Baltimore Ravens probably had to give more than what they initially expected to re-sign middle linebacker Daryl Smith. Given what was left in free agency, they had little choice in the matter.

The Ravens reached an agreement with Daryl Smith on a four-year, $16.1 million deal, removing one of the last viable options left in a dwindling pool of free-agent middle linebackers.

If the Ravens hadn't retained Smith, they would've had to turn to Brandon Spikes, who has struggled with injuries and in pass coverage. There was really no one left after D'Qwell Jackson (Colts), Karlos Dansby (Browns), Jon Beason (Giants), Jameel McClain (Giants) and Wesley Woodyard (Titans) all signed.

“There are a lot of smiles around the building today after we got a commitment from Daryl Smith to stay a Raven,” general manager Ozzie Newsome said. “He fills a need for us at a high level. Just look at his production last season, plus he gave us leadership and maturity. He’s tough, he’s consistent, he’s intelligent, and he brings his lunch pail to work every day.”

Before free agency began, many projected Smith would get a shorter deal because he's 32. The market changed when Dansby (32) and Jackson (30) both received four-year contracts. Age has to be a small concern. Smith started off strong in 2013 with an average of nearly nine tackles in his first nine games. His productivity tailed off in the second half, when he averaged six tackles over his last seven games.

The Ravens couldn't risk losing Smith and having another hole in the defense. The team already needs a free safety and nickelback. The Ravens didn't want to have a weak spot in the middle when they're already putting their faith in Arthur Brown to step up into a starting role this season.

Smith also earned every bit of this deal. After Rolando McClain abruptly retired, the Ravens were lucky McClain was still available in June. He was signed to a one-year, $1.125 million contract. It was a prove-it type year for Smith following an injury-marred 2012 season -- and he did.

In his first season with the Ravens, Smith ended up starting all 16 games for the Ravens, missing just two defensive snaps. He set new career-highs in tackles (123), sacks (5) and interceptions (three). His 19 pass breakups were a franchise record for linebackers, more than Ray Lewis ever had in a season.

Keeping Smith gives the Ravens a good balance in the middle. The Ravens are hoping the 11-year veteran linebacker can mentor Brown, a second-round pick from a year ago who only played on passing downs. With Jameel McClain gone, Brown is expected to start alongside Smith.

The Ravens are now set to bring back five of their top seven tacklers from last year's No. 12 defense.
Alex MackAP Photo/David RichardCleveland Browns center Alex Mack is the top free agent in the AFC North.

It's not a particularly strong free-agent class in the AFC North, although the top ones rank among the best in the NFL.

The free-agent group in the division took a hit when tight end Dennis Pitta, outside linebacker Jason Worilds and linebacker D'Qwell Jackson all signed before the official start of free agency.

So who's left? ESPN's four team reporters in the division -- Scott Brown, Coley Harvey, Jamison Hensley and Pat McManamon -- compiled a list of the top 15 free agents in the AFC North.

The Baltimore Ravens have the most free agents on this list with eight players. The Cleveland Browns have two of the top three free agents in the division, and the Cincinnati Bengals have two of the top five. The Pittsburgh Steelers placed one free agent in the top 10.

Here are the top 15 free agents in the AFC North:

1. Alex Mack, Browns center: At 28, the two-time Pro Bowler is in the prime of his career. Mack was so coveted by the Browns that they placed a $10 million transition tag on him. It will be interesting whether another team can pry him away from Cleveland.

2. Michael Johnson, Bengals defensive end: He was better in 2012 (11.5 sacks) than he was in 2013 (3.5 sacks). Still, his size, athleticism and age (27) will make him one of the most coveted pass-rushers this offseason.

3. T.J. Ward, Browns safety: Considered one of the top 10 safeties in the NFL, Ward will draw interest from teams looking to get more physical in the secondary. He makes an impact on run defense and has improved in coverage.

4. Eugene Monroe, Ravens offensive tackle: Some believe Monroe is the top offensive tackle in free agency, but ESPN's Bill Polian has five tackles ranked ahead of him. His athleticism and upside will command a big-money contract even though he's never been to a Pro Bowl.

5. Anthony Collins, Bengals offensive tackle: He is an underrated left tackle who didn't allow a sack last season. The question mark with Collins is how he'll play as a full-time starter. He made seven starts last season and has 25 starts in six seasons in Cincinnati.

6. Jacoby Jones, Ravens receiver-returner: He was one of the top playmakers in the Ravens' 2012 Super Bowl run, and he ranked among the top five returners in the league last season. Jones is inconsistent and one-dimensional as a wide receiver, but he made a lot of clutch plays for the Ravens in two seasons.

7. Art Jones, Ravens defensive end: His impact as a run defender and interior pass-rusher makes him one of the top defensive tackles available. Teams, though, have to wonder whether he'll be the same type of player without Haloti Ngata drawing double-teams next to him.

8. Daryl Smith, Ravens linebacker: He was quietly one of the NFL's top comeback stories. In his first season with the Ravens, Smith led the team with 123 tackles and finished with five sacks, three interceptions, 19 passes defensed and two forced fumbles. His age (32 this month) could be a drawback.

9. Michael Oher, Ravens offensive tackle: His play never reached the expectations placed on a first-round pick. Oher is a throwback type of player whose strengths are durability and toughness. The biggest knocks against him are mental mistakes and pass protection.

10. Emmanuel Sanders, Steelers wide receiver: He is almost 27, brings a lot of quickness and is coming off a season where he dropped just two passes (according to ESPN Stats & Information). What works against Sanders is the fact that he's never had more than 740 yards receiving in a season and averaged a career-low 11 yards per catch last season.

11. Jameel McClain, Ravens inside linebacker: He isn't among the most talented linebackers, but he prides himself on outworking others. Even though he came back from a spinal cord contusion last season, some teams will be wary of a player who had such a serious injury.

12. James Ihedigbo, Ravens safety: Known more for his special-teams play, Ihedigbo finished as the team's second-leading tackler. He'll try to find a team that will give him an opportunity to play defense now that the Ravens moved Matt Elam to his strong safety spot.

13. Ziggy Hood, Steelers defensive lineman: He never became the difference-maker the Steelers envisioned when they drafted him in the first round, but it would be unfair to call him a bust. One of the strongest players on the team, Hood lost his starting job to Cameron Heyward last season.

14. Corey Graham, Ravens cornerback: He was a starter on the Ravens' 2012 Super Bowl team and led Baltimore with four interceptions last season. Graham has proved to be a dependable nickelback, but he doesn't have the size or speed to be a full-time starter.

15. Brett Keisel, Steelers defensive lineman: He had four sacks last season and 26 quarterback pressures, third most on the Steelers, despite missing four games and playing sparingly in another because of a nagging foot injury. His age (35) will scare away a lot of teams.

Free-agency primer: Ravens

March, 7, 2014
Mar 7
11:00
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» AFC Free-Agency Primer: East | West | North | South » NFC: East | West | North | South

 
Key free agents: OT Eugene Monroe, DT Arthur Jones, WR-KR Jacoby Jones, LB Daryl Smith, OT Michael Oher, SS James Ihedigbo, CB Corey Graham, TE Ed Dickson.

Where they stand: The biggest hole on the team is offensive tackle. Monroe and Oher, the Ravens' starting tackles from last season, are both unrestricted free agents. The Ravens want to get bigger on the interior of the offensive line, which indicates they want to upgrade from center Gino Gradkowski. The other need on offense is a wide receiver or tight end who can convert third downs and make yards after the catch. In other words, they are looking for someone to complement wide receiver Torrey Smith beyond tight end Dennis Pitta, who was re-signed this week. On defense, the priorities are at middle linebacker and free safety. The Ravens want to bring back Smith, but they will need to replace him if they can't. With the Ravens moving Matt Elam to strong safety, they need to add an athletic safety whose strength is coverage.

What to expect: With $26 million in salary-cap space, the Ravens need to get a left tackle, center, wide receiver, middle linebacker and free safety in free agency. Baltimore is trying hard to keep Monroe and Smith before free agency begins. If the Ravens fail to retain Monroe, left tackle has to be the focus early in free agency. The contingency plan is to either re-sign Oher (which isn't ideal because he's better at right tackle) or move Kelechi Osemele from left guard to left tackle. The options at center aren't as appealing after Cleveland put the transition tag on Alex Mack. The other free-agent centers are 20-something and middle of the road: Green Bay's Evan Dietrich-Smith, New Orleans' Brian De La Puente and New England's Ryan Wendell. At wide receiver, the top targets should be Denver's Eric Decker, New England's Julian Edelman, Seattle's Golden Tate and New York Giants' Hakeem Nicks, who has been linked to the Ravens since the end of the season. When it comes to free safety, the biggest name is Buffalo's Jairus Byrd. But Miami's Chris Clemons and Indianapolis' Antoine Bethea are solid starters as well.
Much of the blame for the Baltimore Ravens failing to make the playoffs will fall on the offense. The Ravens gained few yards on the ground, threw too many interceptions, and didn't produce enough touchdowns in the red zone.

But the Ravens' defense has to be held accountable as well, especially for the late collapses in games. The Ravens allowed 134 points in the fourth quarter, the most in team history.

This eclipsed the 130 points allowed in the fourth quarter in 1996, the Ravens' first year of existence. This is also 52 more points than the Super Bowl team gave up in the fourth quarter in 2012.

Inside linebacker Daryl Smith is at a loss for why the Ravens gave up so many points at the end of games.

“I wish I knew. If I knew the answers, we would have benched all of that," Smith said. "Just unraveling, I guess, toward the end, and not being able to get off the field, make the play that we need to make, or miscommunication. I mean, hey, it was a number of issues that came up over the season, and that hurt us.”

The Ravens' downfall in the fourth quarter came in the second half of the season:
  • In Week 10, the Ravens gave up 14 points in the fourth quarter to the Bengals including a 51-yard Hail Mary pass to A.J. Green.
  • In Week 13, Baltimore allowed 13 points in the fourth quarter to the Pittsburgh Steelers, and only escaped with a 22-20 win by stopping a two-point conversion with 63 seconds reamaing.
  • In Week 14, the Ravens watched the Minnesota Vikings score 20 points in the fourth quarter, including two touchdowns in the final 1:27.
  • In Week 17, the Ravens gave up the final 17 points in the game at Cincinnati after tying the score at 17.


Only two teams gave up more points in the fourth quarter than the Ravens this season: the Cleveland Browns (145 points in fourth quarter) and Dallas Cowboys (138).

The Ravens shouldn't be lumped in with these defenses. Baltimore gave up the 12th-fewest points in the NFL this season, and the Browns and Cowboys ranked in the bottom half of the league in scoring defense.

It was strange to see the Ravens defense play solid for three quarters and fall apart when the team needed it the most. In the first three quarters, the Ravens had the sixth-best defense in the red zone (allowing touchdowns 48.4 percent of the time). In the fourth quarter, the Ravens had the fifth-worst defense inside the 20-yard line (66.7 percent).

Ravens coach John Harbaugh said in early December that solving these fourth-quarter issues wouldn't be a "hard fix." But the Ravens never did correct this problem.

In the final eight games, the Ravens gave up 82 points in the first three quarters and 98 points in the fourth quarters. So, more than half the points scored on the Ravens in the second half of the season came in the fourth quarter.

Harbaugh dismissed the notion that the defense was tired at the end of games.

"I don’t know that I saw signs of our defense wearing down," he said. "I’d have to probably look at that. I haven’t looked at it from that perspective. I didn’t think of it in those terms. I thought our defense was pretty stout right to the end."
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There can be no complaints from the Baltimore Ravens after placing seven players on the All-AFC North team. This tied the Cleveland Browns for the most representation on the team. Not bad for the defending Super Bowl champions who failed to make the playoffs and finished a disappointing third in the division.

Not surprisingly, five of the Ravens players on the All-AFC North team are on defense. A big reason why the Ravens ranked in the top 10 in defense for most of the year was the contribution from two new veteran starters. Inside linebacker Daryl Smith, who replaced Ray Lewis, filled up the stat sheet with 123 tackles, 5 sacks, 19 passes defensed, 3 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles. Safety James Ihedigbo, a special-teams player for most of his career, stepped up in a starting role to finish second in tackles (101) and interceptions (three).

The Ravens' defense also got a boost from two former draft picks who elevated their games. Art Jones emerged as the Ravens' best defensive lineman, leading that group in tackles (53) and sacks (four). Jimmy Smith made a case for not only being the Ravens' top cornerback but the second best in the division. He held his own this year in matching up with four of the top five receivers in the NFL: Cleveland’s Josh Gordon (first), Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown (second), Detroit's Calvin Johnson (third) and Cincinnati's A.J. Green (fifth). Besides Smith, the only Ravens selection on defense who wasn't a unanimous pick was linebacker Terrell Suggs, who led the division with 10 sacks.

The Ravens' other two players on the All-AFC North team were on special teams. A first-time Pro Bowl player, kicker Justin Tucker made 33 straight field goals this season, the longest streak of the year, and hit three game-winning field goals this season, including a 61-yarder in Detroit. Jacoby Jones was the most dangerous returner in the division, averaging 28.8 yards on kickoffs (fourth in NFL) and 12.5 yards on punts (fifth in the NFL).

The Ravens didn't have any players on the all-division offense, and rightfully so. Baltimore ranked 29th in total yards (307.4), and the rest of the division's offenses finished in the top 20.
Tom Brady  and Joe Flacco AP PhotoSunday's matchup between the Patriots and Ravens has playoff implications for both teams.
Whenever the New England Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens meet, there is always something at stake. Sunday's clash at Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium, a rematch of the past two AFC Championship Games, is no different.

The Patriots (10-4), winners of three of their past four games, can clinch their fifth straight AFC East title with a win or a tie. The Ravens (8-6) can move one step closer to earning their sixth straight playoff berth with a victory, or they could watch their postseason hopes take a severe hit with a loss.

New England is the NFL's best team in December, winning 17 of its past 19 games in that month. The Ravens, however, are one of the best teams at home, posting a 39-8 record (.830) at M&T Bank Stadium since 2008.

ESPN.com NFL reporters Mike Reiss (Patriots) and Jamison Hensley (Ravens) break down the showdown between these AFC powers:

Jamison Hensley: Mike, everyone knows the impact the loss of Rob Gronkowski has had on the Patriots' red zone offense. How will Tom Brady and the Patriots turn it around inside the 20-yard line?

Mike Reiss: Jamison, they were 1-for-4 in the red zone against the Dolphins, and now they go up against one of the NFL's best red zone defenses. That's not a great formula. One way to look at it is that if rookie receiver Josh Boyce holds on to one makeable catch in the end zone on third down in the first quarter, and the Patriots cap off the comeback like they had in prior weeks with Danny Amendola making a tough catch in the end zone on the final drive, we wouldn't even be talking about this. Instead, we'd be talking about their late-game magic. Then again, if tight end Michael Hoomanawanui didn't make a remarkable one-handed grab in the end zone for a 13-yard score, they might have been 0-for-4. So it's just a reminder that the margin for error is thin, which is also what the red zone is all about.

As for the Ravens, how are they doing it? To go from possibly out of the playoffs to a chance to win the AFC North with two wins to close out the season? Give us a feel for how this has happened.

Hensley: The Ravens have been riding a strong defense, kicker Justin Tucker and Joe Flacco's late-game heroics to get back into the playoff race. To be honest, I had written off the Ravens after they lost at Cleveland in the beginning of November. But this team has fought back to win four straight and are playing with more confidence than at any point this season. There has been a lot of criticism that Flacco hasn't lived up to his $120.6 million contract. While he'll never put up the elite quarterback numbers, he finds ways to win. His four game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime this season is second only to Brady. And Flacco has led a game-winning drive the past two games. He is banged up right now after taking a hit to his knee in Detroit on "Monday Night Football."

This could lead the Ravens to run the ball more with Ray Rice. He has struggled all season but has shown some signs of being more productive over the past two games. The Ravens might want to try to attack the NFL's 31st-ranked run defense as well. What's been the biggest problem for the Patriots in stopping the run this year?

Reiss: A strong run defense is usually a staple of a Bill Belichick-coached team, but this year is different. A significant factor has been season-ending injuries to starting defensive tackles Vince Wilfork (Sept. 29, Achilles) and Tommy Kelly (Oct. 6, knee) and every-down linebacker Jerod Mayo (Oct. 13, pectoral muscle). That's a direct hit at the heart of a run defense, right up the middle, sort of like a baseball team losing its top pitcher, catcher and shortstop. Since that point, they've had to scheme around things; this staff has been coaching its tails off and the players have been doing their best while sometimes being asked to do things outside of their comfort zone. The other part of it is situational. For example, against Peyton Manning and the Broncos on Nov. 24, they played a sub defense the entire game and Denver was content to run against it and put up big numbers. That was a case where the Patriots gave up something (run defense) to gain something (better pass defense), which is what they've had to do this year because of the key losses.

Let's get back to Tucker a little bit, because I think it's a fascinating story. Patriots fans obviously remember Billy Cundiff from the AFC Championship in the 2011 season. Tell us more about Tucker and what he's done to become such an integral part of the team in replacing Cundiff the last two years. His postgame interview on "Monday Night Football" was one of the classics.

Hensley: Tucker has been the Ravens' Most Valuable Player. When you're saying a kicker is the MVP, you're usually not talking about a team contending for the playoffs. And the Ravens wouldn't have the hottest kicker in the NFL right now if not for that memorable -- or is that forgettable? -- miss by Cundiff in the AFC Championship Game. That led the Ravens to have an open competition at training camp the following year. Tucker clearly won the battle and hasn't tailed off since. What separates Tucker from other young kickers is his ability to convert in the clutch. He has six game-winning kicks in 30 career games. His confidence borders on being cocky, and he isn't afraid to show off swagger. Not too many kickers dance after making field goals. But that confidence has been big for the Ravens. Before that 61-yarder on "Monday Night Football," he went up to coach John Harbaugh and said: "I got this."

Speaking of confidence, what's the state of mind for these Patriots compared to past Pats teams at this time of the year? The Patriots are still fighting for a top seed, but there seems to be a lot of doubt nationally because of the close calls with Houston and Cleveland in addition to the loss at Miami.

Reiss: This Patriots team isn't short on confidence, but as Brady said, it's a club that doesn't have a lot of margin for error. They can beat anyone in the NFL, but also lose to any team in the NFL. To sum it up, this is a resilient team that has been hit hard by injuries to key players, and they fight and claw for 60 minutes, so if a team is going to beat them it's going to have to be a knockout. With two weeks remaining in the season, the Patriots are still in play for a first-round bye but also could face a Week 17 scenario where they need to win to even qualify for the playoffs. That's reflective of how this season has unfolded for them -- a lot of close calls that could have gone either way.

With the amount of turnover on defense, how have the Ravens been able to sustain on that side of the ball?

Hensley: The defense has been very good this season, ranking in the top 10 in yards allowed (ninth), points given up (seventh), third downs (third) and red zone (fourth). Without Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, this is a different defense but not an inexperienced one. Daryl Smith has played better than Lewis did last season, making an impact against the pass as well as the run. Outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil has been an upgrade over Paul Kruger. Cornerback Jimmy Smith has gone from a first-round disappointment to the team's best defensive back. If this defense wants to be great, it has to find a way to finish better. Over the past three games, the Ravens have allowed four touchdowns in the final three minutes. That challenge is heightened when going against Brady, one of the NFL's best comeback kings.

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata is one of three starters on the Baltimore Ravens' defense listed as questionable for Sunday's game against the New York Jets.

Ngata
Ngata returned to practice Friday after sitting out the past two days with a knee injury. This is an encouraging sign for Ngata, who walked off the practice field without a limp. He hasn't missed back-to-back games since November 2009.

The other Ravens listed as questionable are: linebacker Daryl Smith (thigh) and cornerback Lardarius Webb (abs). They were limited in Friday's practice.

Ngata, Smith and Webb should all be available Sunday.

Here is the Ravens' official injury report:

QUESTIONABLE: DT Haloti Ngata (knee), LB Daryl Smith (thigh) and CB Lardarius Webb (abs).

PROBABLE: WR Marlon Brown (knee) and WR Brandon Stokley (groin).

Ravens' injured starters are playing

November, 10, 2013
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BALTIMORE -- The Baltimore Ravens had three starters on defense listed as questionable, and all are playing against the AFC North-leading Cincinnati Bengals.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith (groin), linebacker Daryl Smith (thigh) and safety James Ihedigbo (toe) are all active after missing practice time this week. Jimmy Smith and Daryl Smith sat out practices Wednesday and Thursday, but returned to the field Friday. Ihedigbo was injured during Friday's practice.

The Ravens also announced A.Q. Shipley will start for Kelechi Osemele (injured reserve) for a second straight game.

Here is the Ravens' complete inactive list: CB Asa Jackson, S Omar Brown, RB Bernard Scott, C Ryan Jensen, WR Brandon Stokley (groin), LB John Simon and DT Brandon Williams.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Three Baltimore Ravens defensive starters returned to practice Friday, including outside linebacker Terrell Suggs. This meant all of the Ravens' starters were on the field during the media viewing of practice.

Suggs, who missed practice Thursday with a foot injury, playfully feigned a limp when he walked past reporters before running to warm up. It looks like he'll play Sunday against the AFC North-leading Cincinnati Bengals.

Linebacker Daryl Smith (thigh) and cornerback Jimmy Smith (groin) were back at practice after sitting out the past two days of practice. Wide receiver Brandon Stokley (groin), who also missed the past two days of practice, returned Friday as well.
Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs missed practice Thursday with a foot injury, increasing concerns about a banged-up defense heading into Sunday's game against the AFC North-leading Cincinnati Bengals.

Suggs
Suggs had a full practice Wednesday before being added to the injury report a day later. This marks the first time Suggs has been on the injury report this season.

The Ravens can't afford to lose Suggs, who is fifth in the NFL with nine sacks and second on the team with 60 tackles. But durability has been a strength of Suggs. He hasn't missed a game in eight of his 10 NFL seasons.

Suggs is one of three starters on defense that missed Thursday's practice. Middle linebacker Daryl Smith (thigh) and cornerback Jimmy Smith (groin) were out for a second straight day.

The Ravens could have some issues at cornerback because backup Corey Graham (calf) didn't practice Thursday as well.

Wide receiver Marlon Brown (finger) had a full practice after being limited Wednesday, and wide receiver Brandon Stokley (groin) missed practice for a second straight day.
T.J. Ward and Joe FlaccoUSA Today SportsThe Browns and T.J. Ward will try to snap an 11-game series slide against the Ravens and Joe Flacco.
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The Baltimore Ravens have won 11 games in a row over the Cleveland Browns. That number is a measure not only of how good the Ravens have been since 2007 — the last time the Browns won in this series — but also how badly the Browns have struggled.

That 11-game win streak also is the longest current streak of regular-season wins by one team against another, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

By ending that streak, the Browns would make a statement about themselves and their status in the AFC North. But the Ravens realize they will need to start righting themselves if they wish to have a chance to defend their Super Bowl title. Let’s look ahead to the game with ESPN.com Ravens reporter Jamison Hensley and Browns reporter Pat McManamon.

Pat McManamon: The Ravens won the first game between these teams this season, in Week 2, and since then the Browns have started three different quarterbacks. What about the Ravens has changed since the first time these teams met?

Jamison Hensley: Pat, the problem for the Ravens is what hasn't changed. A big reason Baltimore is sitting at 3-4 is its inability to run the ball. The Ravens averaged 2.8 yards per rush against the Browns in Week 2, and they have averaged a league-worst 2.8 yards per rush for the season.

Ray Rice injured his hip in the fourth quarter against the Browns, and he really hasn't looked healthy since. But Rice has a great track record when playing in Cleveland. It's like his home turf, based on the results. In five games there, Rice has averaged 127.4 yards rushing. His worst game was 89 yards.

Is there any shot of Rice getting back on track against the Browns?

McManamon: The Browns are pretty good against the run. They give up 103.6 yards per game, good for 12th in the league. Three opponents have rushed for fewer than 100 yards, and last week they held the Chiefs' Jamaal Charles, second in the NFL in rushing yards this season, to 74 yards. That being said, if anyone is going to bust loose against the Browns, it would be Rice. He seems to salivate when he plays the Browns, especially in Cleveland -- where he's had games of 154, 89, 92, 204 and 98 yards in the last five seasons.

Let's flip to the passing game, Jamison. In his first start, Jason Campbell was surprisingly effective against the Chiefs' pass rush. He was able to make his reads and get rid of the ball in a hurry. Do you anticipate the Ravens coming up with anything to take advantage of Campbell, who is on his fourth team in eight seasons?

Hensley: The Ravens were impressed by Campbell, but they were more impressed by the Browns' offensive line, which allowed just one sack against the Chiefs. Baltimore will find out if Cleveland's pass protection will hold up for a second week. The Ravens will likely use the same aggressive game plan that resulted in five sacks of Brandon Weeden in the earlier meeting with the Browns.

In addition to Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil coming off the edges, the Ravens generated pressure by blitzing up the middle. Where the Ravens will really test Campbell is on third down. Baltimore has recorded 10 sacks on third down this season, fifth-most in the NFL. The last time the Ravens faced Campbell as a starter was 2008, but only two Ravens defensive starters from that game (Suggs and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata) remain on the team.

The bigger concern for the Ravens has been their inability to protect Joe Flacco. Has the Browns' pass rush lived up to expectations so far?

McManamon: In general, no, but last Sunday, yes. The Browns got six sacks against a pretty mobile quarterback in Alex Smith. The catch is that whereas defensive coordinator Ray Horton went after Smith, he dialed back the blitzes the previous two weeks when he faced Matthew Stafford and Aaron Rodgers. The Browns have guys who can bring pressure in Jabaal Sheard, Phil Taylor, Paul Kruger (even with his low sack total) and rookie Barkevious Mingo. But against Green Bay and Detroit, Horton played coverage. Flacco isn't mobile, but he is smart and he's won a Super Bowl. It will be intriguing to see whether the Browns go after him or sit back.

Kruger is one of the departed Ravens from last season's Super Bowl champs. Which of those guys who left -- including the retired Ray Lewis -- do they miss the most?

Hensley: The Ravens haven't really missed Lewis on the field. Daryl Smith, who replaced the longtime face of the franchise, has been the defense's top playmaker. The top four players that the Ravens miss the most (in no particular order) are wide receiver Anquan Boldin, safety Ed Reed, safety Bernard Pollard and center Matt Birk.

Boldin was a difference-maker on third down and in the red zone, two areas where the offense has struggled this season. Teams would likely take fewer deep shots if Reed were playing center field, and there's less of an intimidation factor on defense without Pollard. The biggest surprise is how much the Ravens have struggled without Birk. In his first season as the starting center, Gino Gradkowski is getting pushed back too often.

Speaking of changes, the Ravens didn't have to face wide receiver Josh Gordon last month because he was serving his two-game suspension. Can his impact change the Browns' fortunes against the Ravens?

McManamon: Of course. Gordon is a talent. A big-time talent. At just 22, he’s second in the league in yards per catch, and every touchdown pass in his career has been for at least 20 yards. It’s no secret that the offense opened up for Brian Hoyer, in part because Hoyer played but also because he had Gordon back. That said, not even Gordon can overcome bad quarterbacking. He struggled when Weeden had his second chance because Weeden struggled. Campbell got him back in the offense. Baltimore must respect him.

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Here's your morning briefing on the Baltimore Ravens beat with the wake-up caw ...
  • Tight end Ed Dickson told The Baltimore Sun he isn't frustrated by his slow start. He's motivated. "Things may have gotten off to a rocky start but it is a long season," Dickson said. "As a team, it is working the way we want it to go. We want to keep getting better and I want to get better. Who knows? This might be a big week for me." Dickson's inability to catch the ball consistently has hurt the Ravens, and I would think twice throwing the ball to him. But he's too athletic to write off this quickly. He'll emerge again in the game plan.
  • Continuing our tight-end storyline, Dallas Clark told USA Today that his improvement comes from extra film study with quarterback Joe Flacco. "Joe has us in there and goes over where he wants us, what he expects on each play," Clark said. "That's a huge help so everyone can see the big picture of where they belong, what their responsibilities are."
  • Daryl Smith's sure tackling has impressed the Ravens. “When that guy grabs you, you go down,” defensive coordinator Dean Pees said, via Comcast SportsNet. “I can’t say enough good things about the guy." Smith is one of three linebackers with at least 25 tackles, one sack and one interception this season.
  • A year after injuries limited his game plans, Pees is enjoying being more creative with his personnel groupings this year. “It’s a lot of fun,” Pees said, via the team's official website. “I think it gets boring to me as a coach and I think it’s boring as a player if you go out and every week it’s the same dang-gone thing. ... You put in little tweaks here and there. I think the players like it, and I like it.”
  • Matt Vensel of The Baltimore Sun broke down the snaps of the outside linebackers, which show the Ravens have been keeping their top pass-rushers fresh. Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil and Courtney Upshaw have played at least 60 percent of the defensive snaps. Suggs, the team’s starting rush linebacker, has played 161 out of a possible 191 snaps. Dumervil, who usually splits time with Upshaw at strongside linebacker, has played 125. Upshaw has been on the field for 119 plays.
  • Former Ravens defensive lineman Trevor Pryce doesn't agree with Ray Lewis that the "party bus" incident means there is a leadership void in Baltimore. "Here's the thing about the Ray Lewis leadership thing, when you start telling the media that things would be fixed if you were there, that can be a little self-serving," Pryce told The Baltimore Sun.

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